As the workshop at Timothy Christian in Barrie, Ontario was breaking up, word came that Brandon’s body had been found. Brandon Crisp, a slight fifteen-year-old who had been missing since October 13, had left his home near Barrie, Ontario after his parents removed his Xbox privileges. Brandon’s favorite program was “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” In this simulation, players act out missions as U.S. Marines or British SAS members.
Ironically, in our workshop that day, we had been considering the pressures of culture and the faith development of youth ages 9-18. We had focused some time in particular on trends of concern that are emerging around boys and factors related to school achievement and faith development. In the area of video games, the negative evidence around the use of violent video games is starting to mount – Sax (Boys Adrift) points to research indicating that playing violent video games are more destructive than watching violent media. The pattern is familiar: boys begin spending more and more time with the game, and less and less time doing the typical boy things – playing with friends, engaging in physical activities/sports, and playing online games for hours at a time. Social circles shrink as the addiction increases and the connections shift to online game players. A recent McLean’s article reported: “While he had few friends in Barrie, his Xbox had a list of 200 people whom he played “Call of Duty” with online. Judged too small to keep up in hockey, the shy but competitive teenager found respect and success in the video game world, where he played on “clans” or “online teams.”
A predominant theme in recent years among those who write about youth faith nurture is that of our youth experiencing abandonment by adults. Our kids seek to belong, to matter somewhere. Note that the online video world refers to kids belonging to “clans.” Brandon’s father commented in the police station: “When I took his Xbox away, I took away his identity.” Are we rooting our kids in the identity expressed in the Heidelburg Catechism Q & A 1 – “I am not my own but belong, in body and soul, in life and death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ?” Where are our kids forming deep ties and finding their sense of belonging?
This compelling video “Mankind Is No Island” could be used effectively with a class or in a chapel. It was the winner of Tropfest New York 2008 – “The World’s Largest Short Film Festival.”
As Jesus pointed out in Luke 6:41, our natural human tendency is to point out the brokenness in others, yet ignore our own brokenness. We repeatedly fall prey to the temptations of pride as we set ourselves apart from others in ways that make us appear we have it “more together.”
There is probably nowhere a greater need for the balance between standing for truth and practicing grace than in dealing lovingly with issues of sexual orientation in our schools. At a recent CSI Critical Issues Forum held at Trinity Christian College, Christian educators grappled with the issues around student sexual orientation. A key question in our discussion became: how can we care well for both individuals and our community in these situations which can be so uncomfortable for those involved and so divisive within our communities?
Attendees at the workshop acknowledged that all of us experience brokenness in our sexuality, originally intended as a good gift from God. It is difficult to even discuss these issues at times. We recognized that for some students sexual orientation is not a choice, but that we play key roles in helping students deal with their own questions, confusion, anger, grief around this topic, as well as helping them deal with family and church relationships. Most of all, we play a key nurturing role as we encourage kids by helping them make choices related to their sexuality as they live out their faith in obedience to Christ, and in the context of Christian community. How can we “be Jesus” to them?
(If you are a member school and are interested in learning more about this topic, please visit our Member Community Center to view student guidelines and information submitted by other schools.)
In the title of one of his very last books before his death, Robert Webber raised what he believed to be the most urgent question of our time: Who Gets to Narrate the World? He points to two challenges to the Christian narrative: the external threat of radical Islamic religious nationalism and the internal threat of Western cultural accommodation.
Webber suggests that God’s story, our story, is best captured in three words: creation, incarnation, and re-creation. What is fundamentally different about Christianity from any other religions is that grace is offered through Jesus Christ, who reconciles, rescues, and reverses the brokenness between God and humanity. God’s work of redemption accomplished through his Son makes it possible for sinners to be made right with God once again. Our salvation does not depend on our being made right with God through our good works. The Son of God, who is both Creator and Redeemer, by his coming to earth as the human child Jesus united the divine and the human/created order. Creation is also re-united with God through the incarnation of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus the chosen revealer of God should be the narrator of the world.
How has the story been getting lost?
- Reason and science divide the world into sacred and secular.
- Human concepts of reason, science, evolution, and progress replace the narrative of creation, incarnation, and re-creation. “The world can now be understood without God” (p. 88).
- Postmodern philosophy deconstructs all narratives and encourages us to make our own meaning based on truth being relative—in other words, “whatever.”
- New Age spirituality is a secular spirituality that encourages us to find our meaning in vague transcendent experiences.
- There has been a loss of scriptural roots, origins, heritage, and history with increased focus on self and our needs defined by marketers and a consumer-driven society
- Consumer-driven models of church practice are the result of individualistic values.
- The modern approach to the incarnation is a focus on personal salvation, not “the cosmic work of God in history.”
- God’s narrative is therefore being reduced to “social betterment” or one’s personal faith journey.
- With no universal rules and the denial of man being created in the image of God, moral decadence is on the rise.
- A new gnosticism has been made popular through such books as The Da Vinci Code and The Jesus Papers.
Webber suggests that much like the early Christian church scattered throughout the Roman world, we find ourselves in a land and time with no unified narrative, and yet those first Christians “narrated the world in a new way. They did not accommodate the faith to culture but set forth the faith in a countercultural way. In a world that had no set beliefs they proclaimed, ‘We believe.’ In a world that had no ethic, they proclaimed, ‘We behave.’ In a world where there was no belonging, they declared, ‘We belong’” (p. 51).
What are the implications of our loss of story for how nurture faith with students?
(Webber and other evangelicals have articulated a call encouraging Christians to return to the narrative of God’s Word – “A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future.”)